SELINSGROVE — First-year Susquehanna women’s basketball coach Gabby Holko has put a renewed emphasis on defense this season.
“A big thing that we say in our practices is, ‘If you can’t defend, you can’t play,’” Holko said. “You need to be able to guard your yard, help your teammates out and have your teammates’ backs to be able to play the type of basketball that we’re going to be playing this year.”
The River Hawks open play under Holko at Johns Hopkins on Nov. 13, with the home opener set for Nov. 20 against William Patterson.
Susquehanna went 6-18 last season, including a loss to Marywood, which was coached by Holko.
“I actually had the opportunity to scout these guys because when I was at Marywood we came here and played Susquehanna University,” said Holko, who went 13-14 in her lone season as coach of the Pacers.
Junior Erin McQuillen, the River Hawks’ leading scorer last season at 14.7 points per game, scored 18 points against Marywood last season. McQuillen also led the team in rebounding (6.2 per game) and assists (3.9 per game).
“Erin is our leading scorer returning and she is a dynamic player,” Holko said. “She’s somebody who can handle the basketball if we need her to. She’s somebody who is going to knock down a shot at the the end of the game. She’s somebody who if I need her to score the basketball, she’s going to be able to do that for me. She is somebody who doesn’t take breaks on defense.”
Sophomores Sadie Comfort (9.7 ppg) and Amanda Lemire (9.7 ppg), and junior Nevin Hoenninger (7.7 ppg) return, meaning the River Hawks have their top four scorers back from a year ago.
“Offensively, we’re great,” McQuillen said. “We have so much talent and so many people can score the ball. So our defense is going to play a huge role in our success.”
McQuillen said defense and competitiveness were the areas the River Hawks needed to continue to improve.
“Being more competitive — and wanting to beat the other team, even though we’re teammates — has made practice more fun,” McQuillen said.
Holko said there might be some growing pains early in the season for Susquehanna.
“I think it’s going to take a little time,” Holko said. “Our system is very different from what coach (Jim) Reed ran here (last year). It’s going to take time to get used to. It’s going to take time for the girls to realize they have to defend 40 minutes per game. If we’re giving up 60, 70 points, that means we should be scoring a whole heck of a lot more.”
That also means the River Hawks are hoping to play faster.
“A big thing is we’re going to press a little bit,” Holko said. “We’re going to try to score as many points in transition as possible and cause some havoc.”
Susquehanna’s roster has only one senior, Rachel Sweger, so a lot of the leadership responsibilities have fallen on McQuillen and the rest of the junior class.
“I was a team captain last year as a sophomore,” McQuillen said. “Going into this season, we only have one senior. She is the best leader I’ve ever had. ... We’re a really young team. I really wanted to show leadership.”
Holko, who said she was excited to compete in the Landmark Conference, said there was no big secret to what she wanted from her team.
“Our biggest thing is No. 1 our focus,” Holko said. “Our focus has to be there every day, all day. We can’t short the little things. We have to be fundamental in everything we do. We’re still breaking some little habits that we have.”
No. Name Pos. Yr. Ht.
2 Alexa Petrozzino G Jr. 5-3
3 Hannah McLucas G So. 5-3
5 Nevin Hoenninger G Jr. 5-9
10 Erin McQuillen G Jr. 5-8
12 Amanda Lemire G So. 5-2
13 Giovanna Carotenuto G Fr. 5-5
14 Isabella Schwabe F Fr. 6-1
15 Rachel Sweger G Sr. 5-9
20 Megan Emlet G. So. 5-7
21 Olivia Brandt F So. 5-11
22 Taylor Evans F Jr. 5-11
23 Amalia Esposito G/F So. 6-0
24 Sadie Comfort G So. 5-8
30 Kaitlyn Lynch G Fr. 5-9
33 Alanna Connolly F Jr. 5-10
35 Madi Welliver C/F Jr. 5-11
44 Victoria Clarke G Fr. 5-8
at Johns Hopkins Nov. 13
William Patterson Nov. 20
York^ Nov. 23
Penn College or St. Elizabeth^ Nov. 24
Lycoming Dec. 1
at Neumann Dec. 3
at Juniata* Dec. 7
Dickinson Dec. 11
at Marywood Dec. 14
Christopher Newport’ Jan. 3
at St. Mary’s (Md.)’ Jan. 4
at Lancaster Bible Jan. 8
Goucher* Jan. 11
Drew* Jan. 15
at Elizabethtown* Jan. 18
at Scranton* Jan. 22
Catholic* Jan. 25
at Moravian* Jan. 29
at Goucher* Feb. 1
Scranton* Feb. 5
Elizabethtown* Feb. 8
at Drew* Feb. 12
at Catholic* Feb. 15
Moravian* Feb. 19
Juniata* Feb. 22
^ Susquehanna Trailways Tournament
* Landmark Conference game
‘ St. Mary’s (Md.) New Year Classic